16 February 2012

Chaser Profiles: Andrew Pritchard


1) What is your name and where do you live?

 I'm Andrew Pritchard, and I'm originally from downstate in Champaign, IL though I'm finishing school in DeKalb in the northern part of the state. I'm back and forth between the two a lot. 

2) Do you have a website or a brand name that people identify you as?

 I've been using the 'Prairiestorm' name for about a decade now under slightly different guises, we're at PrairiestormImagery.Com right now.  Well, that change is coming, anyway. 

3) What got you interested in weather? 

I'm not entirely sure there was one event. My dad always had an interest in severe weather, and he became good friends with the chief meteorologist (Ed Kieser) at the TV/Radio station he worked at and they both showered me with tornado videos at a young age. 

4) What is your favorite aspect of weather? 

Just experiencing things out in the open. I'm not a city person at all and hate urban areas, so being out in the plains surrounded by the atmosphere is where I feel the most at home. 

5) When did you first start chasing?

 I started riding along on a few storm chases with my dad when I was 14, and then once I got my drivers license I was out on my own. I'm right at a decade of chasing now.

6) What do you see chasing as... a hobby or a business? 

Neither really. Needing to see the sky has been in my blood since I was a kid, so it's really just a passion to get out and see things. I'm a student of meteorology as well, so going out and chasing is the only way I can see the subject that I am studying in person. 

7) Who do you credit for getting you into chasing and what have they done to further your career? 

Well as I said my dad and his friend certainly were the ones who made me the way that I am. They were constantly sitting me in front of the TV with cool new tornado videos even when I was two years old, so my destiny was chosen quickly. 

8) Do you have any chase partners?

 I've become more of a loner, not because I don't enjoy the company, but because I easily get that 'too many chefs in the kitchen' feeling if I'm not in control. I chased the last few years with my girlfriend which was nice because I had company, but she didn't give a damn where we ended up or when we called the chase / when we chased into the night even though we were tired. Colin Davis is probably as close to a chase partner as I have right now who is actually a storm chaser. 

9) What was your most successful chase? 

June 7th 2008 easily. On a moderate risk day in Iowa/Minnesota I hung back at home and managed to intercept a cyclic supercell that produced 4 individual strong wedge tornadoes one after another. 

10) What was your most terrifying moment?

 I haven't really had many terrifying moments. A few times have gotten my adrenaline going more than others, I suppose. I didn't especially love having what was surveyed as being a 300 yard wide tornado coming down the highway behind me obscured by nightfall and rain on June 5 2010, a day known for producing the Peoria area tornado. I could see the tornado developing behind me using the city lights of Lincoln, IL but then after losing it in the darkness I decided to bail, only to get slowed down by road construction. It was your typical "I can't see it, but I know it's in there" situation. 

11) About how many tornadoes have you seen?

 I haven't a clue. I generally just keep track of 'tornado days', of which I'm only average a couple of per year the last few years. There's a definite bell curve if you look at my career peaking around 2007-2008. 

12) What do you think about people who chase for sales and the need to get up close and personal with Mother Nature? 

I'm all for it. People could chase naked and launch flame throwers at each other for all I really care. If you can make money to pay for your chasing, do it. If you need to get close to feel like you had a successful chase, do it. If you need to hang back and shoot the structure shot of the day to feel good, then do it.

13) Describe your dream chase.

 Local day, obviously. Sleep until a decent hour, make breakfast at home while eyeballing a target a couple of hours southwest. Eat lunch at home. Chase. See a couple of tornadoes as you chase the storms back in the direction of home (okay, obviously hoping for no destruction in your locale), shoot lightning/twilight photos as the sun sets, and then eat dinner in your hometown, and in bed by midnight. 

14) What is your favorite set up to chase?

 Anything that produces highly visible tornadoes. 

15) Which state has brought you the most success?

 The most success is probably a tie between Kansas, and Illinois simply because it's the home turf and has a much higher total chase count. Least success? Nebraska seems to hate me for some reason.

16) Do you want to pursue a career in meteorology? Would you ever chase locally for a t.v station?

 I'm finishing a B.S. in meteorology, so ideally I will have a career in meteorology. Broadcast meteorology is probably at the bottom of my life, however. That said, a job in meteorology is a job in meteorology.

17) What do you see chasing as being like in 5-10 years? 

Probably about the same as it is too. People utilizing technology to advance their chasing, while others groan about it. 

18) Despite all the deaths and destruction in 2011, are you looking forward to chasing in 2012 knowing you can run into a Tuscaloosa or Joplin?

 Of course. You run that risk chasing every day. I don't hope to run into anything like that, but I know it's a possibility every time I leave the house.

19) Is there any point in time where you had no desire to chase anymore?

What caused that and what gave you the power to move on. There have been times where personal issues on the sidelines have taken priority emotionally, but the sky is what keeps me going, and eventually I always find my way back.

20) How long do you plan on continuing chasing?

 Forever, I assume. 

21) Outside of chasing, what do you like to do?

 My camera has been attached to my hip since I was a kid, be it a video camera or point and shoot / DSLR. During the cold season, astro-photography definitely keeps me sane. I'm a different kind of happy when I'm standing out in the open under a star filled sky in the peace and quiet. I also play the drums in a band back home, which is the opposite of peace and quiet. 

22) What kind of music do you like to listen to on the chase or in general?

 It varies completely. Sometimes I need some relaxing old folk music to enjoy the open road, others I'm in the mood to get pumped with some harder rock, or even venture down the Chemical Brothers, or The Crystal Method path. 

23) What is your favorite professional and college sports team?

 I'm a huge Cubs fan, and aside from that I do enjoy college basketball and football. 

24) Do you have a family or pets?

 Under my own personal ownership I've just got this fish who fights with his own reflection in my red bull cans, he's a black orchid betta. I have three dogs waiting to greet me back at home. 

25) Tell me 3 things that someone outside of chasing may not know you for.

 I don't know how things can really be all that unknown with social media today. I chase, take dumb photos, go to school, drum, and drink a lot of red bull. That's pretty much my life, and everyone is fairly well aware of that.
26) If you have kids or plan on having them... would you like to involve them in your chasing?

 If they had a genuine interest, definitely. 

27) Do you have a job and what do you do?

 I'm a student and student only now, but I've had side jobs and internships in and out of meteorology. 

28) How do you feel about people who say they chase tornadoes for the sole purpose of saving lives? 

They don't. Though I've never actually heard someone say they chase -strictly- to save lives. Or at least I knew better if they did. 

29) If there was one event in history that you wish you were around for to chase, what would it be? 

Red Rock, Oklahoma in 1991 would have been something else. 

30) Do you only chase severe weather or do you chase hurricanes and winter weather as well?

 I'd like to chase a hurricane once or twice, but once the novelty of chasing a hurricane wore off it'd ultimately be putting forth more time and resources than it would be worth for me. I'm not a winter fan by any stretch. I can get into the huge blizzard events, but that's just the extreme weather lover in me. Anything less than insanity in the winter and you can find my hiding inside.

31) Do you go to a college or university, if so, what do you major in? 

I've hit on it a couple of times, but I'm finishing my B.S. in meteorology with a minor in geography and GIS certification at Northern Illinois University. 

32) What do you expect in 2012?

 I expect me to get pissed off a lot by missing tornadoes, and to get lucky on a day or two.

 I wish I had a better personal statement for you. I'll just give some advice. Don't add me on Facebook, because I don't care about anyone elses life, but if you see me on the side of the road under the meso, feel free to say hey. Actually, not under the meso, at that point I'm not going to care about you either. If you see me fueling up my car before the chase, you've got about five minutes to say hey.

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